I am not the best public speaker.
I get scared talking in front of people. Just thinking about it does strange things to my stomach and chest.
But in a couple of days I will be speaking at my first political event — a community forum in support of people who have fled conflict and persecution and are seeking protection in Australia.
I am terrified.
For the past month or so, a group of us who live in the electorate have met to plan this event.
We met in church halls and people’s homes. Shared countless emails and phone calls. Many in the group have been concerned for the plight of refugees and asylum seekers for some time and wanted to do something practical to help. We also wanted our community to care for these people and be moved to action.
People at the community forum will hear first hand from those who have endured much in search of safety.
One woman, who has just arrived from Nauru, and a man who was a teacher and activist in his homeland, have generously and bravely given their time to speak of their migration and settlement experience.
Poet and journalist Saba Vasefi has also agreed to speak about her experience and the impact of off shore detention.
That evening, we will encourage people at the forum to take action. Whether it is participating in a training day on how to have positive, informed conversations about this issue, or writing letters to our local Members of Parliament, there will be a few volunteering opportunities for people to sign up to in support of those seeking protection here.
It’s been heartening to see the local Council endorsing our event. They provided the room, gave us their logo to use and asked us to put “Proudly supported by [the] Council” on our leaflets and flyers.
The event needed an MC and the group asked me to step up and take that role.
I reluctantly said yes as long as there was no one else who wanted it. I guess there are times we should do something that scares us.
I just hope the people who come will be inspired to welcome others who are searching for safety, fairness and dignity.
“Let’s hope you have people there,” my husband mentions.
Another thing to worry about.
Members of our group spent days putting up posters at local cafes, bus stops, libraries and public noticeboards. We spent our own money on targeted Facebook ads. We distributed flyers at local markets and festivals. Walked our local neighbourhoods to letter box drop invitations to the event. Asked our friends and contacts to distribute the information amongst their networks.
Unfortunately, the number of people who will attend the evening is out of our control.
I just have to trust the people who do find out about the forum and attend, will be the best people to be in that room.
And I am desperately praying for hearts to be moved that night.
Here’s to building a welcoming, generous, compassionate community that will love our neighbours.